‘I am a racist, judge me on that’ — Agrizzi

Angelo Agrizzi said his statements were made in reference to Bosasa directors Papa Leshabane and Joe Gumede. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Angelo Agrizzi said his statements were made in reference to Bosasa directors Papa Leshabane and Joe Gumede. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

On the ninth day of his testimony before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi was called to answer for a racist tirade clandestinely recorded by members of the controversial Watson family.

“I am ashamed of myself for doing this ... You can hear me slurring ... I am a racist, I agree,” Agrizzi told the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

In the recording, Agrizzi can be heard repeatedly using the k-word.
“Those k****s have done nothing for your father [Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson]. What is it that they are holding over his head? What is it?” Agrizzi is heard saying to members of the Watson clan, including Lindsay, Roth and Jarrod Watson.

The recording was later published and shared widely on social media.

Agrizzi said his statements were made in reference to Bosasa directors Papa Leshabane and Joe Gumede. He previously told the commission that both had threatened him to compel him into silence in the wake of his testimony.

“When people threaten you, you do stupid things. I am not making excuses,” he said.

Agrizzi recounted the events leading up to his racist tirade being recorded. He was at pains to explain that he was in a bad state of mind at the time of the recording.

According to Agrizzi — who is a diabetic — prior to the meeting he had drunk a few gin and tonics, eaten some carrot cake and allegedly neglected to take his insulin shot.

Agrizzi told the commission that he was agitated after having been “harassed” by the Watsons wanting him to retract a press statement he had released, announcing his intention to blow the lid off alleged corruption at Bosasa.

“I thought I could control it chair. Evidently, I couldn’t ... I didn’t realise the impact that having carrot cake and a gin would have on me,” Agrizzi told the commission.

When asked whether or not he knew he was being recorded, Agrizzi said that in hindsight he knew he was being set up.

“They were coming there to try set me up. I knew it. In my gut, I knew it,” Agrizzi told the commission.

The recording was played for the commission to hear. Agrizzi objected to this, saying that the other three hours of the conversation should also be played.

He listened to the recording with his eyes closed.

Head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius SC, remarked that Agrizzi’s statements in the recording are “nakedly racist and grossly offensive”.

“I’ve admitted it and I am sorry. That is all I can say,” Agrizzi said.

Pretorius also questioned whether or not Agrizzi’s testimony had been motivated by racism.

“All I’m saying is, I don’t see how somebody can say I am racist when I’m pointing out the facts,” Agrizzi said in response. “Chair have a look at the facts ... I can’t do anything about your decision ... But what I can do is ask you to make it more accessible for whistleblowers to come out.”

Zondo, who called Agrizzi’s statements “extremely offensive and totally unacceptable”, said that he would objectively review the evidence put before him.

The recording was published on social media by Pinky Khoabane, one of the journalists named by Agrizzi as having received payments from Bosasa through Leshabane.

READ MORE: Agrizzi maps Bosasa media ties

On Monday, Khoabane took to Twitter to deny the allegation. “I have never met Angelo Agrizzi. I simply reported on his racist rants and his links. I will make a submission to [the Zondo commission].”

Khoabane also alleged that she had received the recording through a friend. “I only ever interacted with Bosasa in around Oct 2018 when I called to get authenticity of the tape. I have an email to that effect I then met Papa Leshabane as spokesperson of Bosasa. He gave me no money,” she wrote.

Agrizzi suggested that the publication of the recording was part of a campaign to dent his credibility ahead of his testimony.

“What can I do? It is just an attempt to discredit me … Because if they can discredit me, they can discredit my information as well,” he said.

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law. Read more from Sarah Smit

    Client Media Releases

    Eminent scientist recognised for his research in breastfeeding
    Supersonic scores another ISP win
    M&As create strategic options